If company X wants to find out information about company Y's online product, is it illegal for X to hire a contractor to pose as a customer using false details? Assuming no documents are signed, has fraud or any other offense been committed if the contractor gains access to non-public information (or to Y's product itself) if company Y would not have provided that access knowing the contractor was affiliated with company X? If so, who is the guilty party?

  • Perhaps the contractor should just buy the product using actual details, but company X should pick someone who is not obviously affiliated with company X. Does company Y routinely ask its customers whether they are affiliated with company X? – phoog Mar 5 '19 at 6:06

Online versus brick and mortar does not matter. It sounds like fraud. First, you are knowingly making a false representation of fact, and this is a material fact (that is, it matters to the other party whether you are a customer or not). Your falsehood is intended to get the other part to act on that false representation, and providing this information injures the other party. This article gives an overview of the elements of fraud. Signatures are not required for there to be fraud. It is not illegal to pose as a company's customer: it is illegal do so in order to get something that they would not have otherwise provided.

  • Reading this, I get the impression that a manufacturer of (for example) soft drinks cannot purchase a competing soft drink without identifying that the purchaser is affiliated with the manufacturer. But nothing stops any employee of Coca-Cola from going to the store and buying a bottle of Pepsi. – phoog Mar 5 '19 at 6:04
  • A previous company I worked for had a lawsuit involving intellectual property theft, where the competitor had sent software engineers to use and copy the functionality of our systems. So this may cause a lawsuit, regardless of the results. – user2259716 Mar 5 '19 at 15:23

Before disclosing non-public information, the Second Company would very likely have the contractor/fake-customer sign a legally binding NDA agreement.

The disclosure of the non-public information back to the First Company would be a Breach of Contract.

If the Second Company somehow failed to get an NDA or MOU or other document in place, the fake-customer has no obligations to keep information they learned secret, nor even to represent themselves honestly and transparently.

Contrary to @user6726, I disagree that Fraud is supported.

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